The turkey at Paradise and Klein no longer stalks his territory at the busy intersection in Williamsville, but the memory of him lives on.
Definitely not a pet, one neighbor remembers the bird walked with a limp and would stop traffic — leading to some angry honking drivers — as he protected the area from police and mail carriers.
“He would just chase the cars, police officers,” Daniela Poe said, noting that “Tom” didn’t join other turkey groups that lived in the woods a short distance away.
“Tom would always stay here. He’d perch on my neighbor’s roof (to sleep).”
Today, Tom is no longer guarding the roadway or causing havoc with morning commutes. According to Lori Jagow, Tom was taken to an animal sanctuary, but not before he inspired her to write about him in a story titled “Free-Ranging Turkey.”
The piece was picked up and published in the newest edition of “Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Blessings of Christmas.”
Jagow, a Lockport native now residing in Amherst, has written three stories for the Chicken Soup series, all different takes on how one person makes a difference. In "A Musical Gift" she chronicles her son’s journey with autism and his passion for music, which led to him graduating from Berkeley School of Music in Boston. A stranger donated the payments for his trumpet, she said.
In “A Crisis of Faith,” Jagow wrote about learning to know God through hardship. Among other things, she is a pastoral counselor and online ministry coordinator for Pendleton Center United Methodist Church.
In "Free Ranging Turkey" Jagow narrates her experience with Tom, aiming to touch people with his story.
“I took a picture of him and posted it on Facebook and people said he had his own Facebook page,” Jagow said. “So then I realized that this turkey was well known in the community; he was very beloved. I saw pictures of him chasing the mail man — playing chicken with cars — and I started taking an interest in this turkey along with the rest of the community.”
Jagow saw Tom as more than a nuisance that held up traffic. She said he was something uplifting in a time when all the news showed was division — even before the pandemic began — and she looked forward to seeing him when she passed by.
Of course, a turkey can’t be allowed to run circles around police officers, delivery drivers, neighbors and children. With compassion came a genuine fear for Tom’s safety.
“One day, he was no longer seen and I heard they had taken him away to a wildlife refuge,” Jagow said, but then added:
“I don’t know how long it was, exactly, but he found his way back! He was right back to Paradise and Klein.”
Tom was eventually caught by authorities again and was taken to to a sanctuary much further away.
“He is alive and well, as far as I know,” Jagow said. “But I wrote the story because, in a time when there was so much division, political division and polarity, it focuses on the strengths of the community, instead of the weaknesses, and on how the community cared enough to not only befriend this turkey, but to ensure his safety.”
“It’s a story about the way this turkey brought the community together and brought some joy to the area,” she said. “It’s a fun, light story, but I think it has more meaning than just a turkey story. It’s about what happened around the turkey.”
The newest “Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Blessings of Christmas” will be released on Tuesday. Royalties from its sale are to be donated to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program.